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Is Big Brother Scared of Being Seen as Transphobic?

Spoiler warning for anyone not caught up to Big Brother.

While I’m a huge supporter of equal rights, protection and respect for all, I’m aware that sometimes it’s possible to tread too far into the realm of unnecessarily walking on eggshells. As an LGBTQ supporter, I was glad to see the first transgender houseguest on this summer’s Big Brother 17. Audrey revealed herself as transgender right away. Without knowing much about the houseguests when they first walked through the door, it was easy to like everyone. However, over the past two weeks, Audrey has become a pretty big target in the eyes of contestants and viewers alike.

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There are two ways a houseguest can avoid eviction on Big Brother: one is to be a crafty game player, and the other is to be likeable. Sadly, Audrey is a very bad game player, and she’s not very likeable. After creating a 3-person all girl alliance on the first day, which could have gone far, she then aligned with the first two Heads of Household and brought in new recruits without first discussing gameplay with anyone. Not only did she bring them in, but she did so in the least subtle way possible—by waking up the entire house to take select people back to the HOH room. She petitioned to backdoor Jace, and then initiated a conversation with him swearing that she had nothing to do with it, even though, as far as I could tell, she hadn’t been suspected. Since then, she’s spread rumors about other houseguests who weren’t targets, and then labeled everyone paranoid when they confronted her, which of course just incited their anger even further.

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Rumor Fix

What I find interesting though, is that those interviewed seem to fear being labeled as intolerant if they don’t go out of their way to publicly support her. When Jace was the first one voted out of the house, host Julie Chen asked whom he thought cast the single vote in his favor. Surprisingly, Jace knew that it was probably Audrey, and that she most likely did so to try to win back some credibility since she knew she now had a large target on her back. What I found equally surprising is that Jace went out of his way to say what a great person Audrey is:

“Audrey’s such a sweet girl. She’s doing such a wonderful thing for the whole transgender community. I’m so proud of her for what she’s doing, and I think she’s just trying to save herself. But she’s a wonderful person. Even though you guys may have seen me yell at her [in response to her yelling at him], I do truly love her, just like I love everyone in that house, and I want everybody to know that.”

Now, a big part of me can understand why Jace made such a public declaration. After all, Big Brother contestants have experienced their share of –isms: racism, sexism, and homophobia. The most blatant of such cases transpired last summer during Big Brother 16, as white Aaryn Gries spewed racial epithets throughout the entire summer. Julie Chen confronted Aaryn during her exit interview about specific comments she had made on the show. About black houseguest Candace: “Be careful what you say in the dark, might not be able to see the bitch.” To Asian Helen: “Shut up, go make some rice.” And in reference to gay houseguest Andy: “No one’s going to vote for whoever that queer puts up.” According to Remote Access, her modeling contract back home was subsequently dissolved, and she issued only a half-hearted public apology, claiming that her words were part of her Southern culture.

Shannon Luders-Manuel

Shannon Luders-Manuel

Shannon Luders-Manuel is a freelance writer and editor living in Los Angeles.

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